The National Ignition Facility

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center about 50 miles east of San Francisco, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) are trying to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion -- in other words, to create a miniature star on Earth. The core of the NIF is a house-sized spherical chamber aiming 192 massive lasers at a tiny target. One recent laser experiment focused nearly 2 megajoules (the energy consumed by 20,000 100-watt light bulbs in one second) of light energy onto a millimeter-sized sphere of deuterium and tritium in a 16-nanosecond pulse. The resulting energetic output, while far short of being a self-sustaining reaction, set a record for energy return, and has scientists hopeful as they fine-tune the targeting, material, and performance of the instruments. The facility itself bristles with machinery and instruments, impressing the producers of the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, who used it as a film set for the warp core of the starship Enterprise.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Anto Sembiring / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Dancing Noses, Olympic Jumps, Analog Astronauts

    A flour war in Greece, mountain hares in Scotland, students marching against guns in the U.S., the Mach Loop in Wales, and much more.

  • Mark Wallheiser / AP

    Photos: Teenagers Demand 'Never Again' in an Age of Mass Shootings

    A week after 17 people were murdered in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, teenagers across South Florida, in areas near Washington, D.C., and in other parts of the United States walked out of their classrooms to stage protests against the horror of school shootings and to advocate for gun law reforms.

  • Stéphane Mahé / Reuters

    A Quiet, Ancestral Farm Life in Western France

    Reuters photographer Stéphane Mahé visited a farmer named Jean-Bernard Huon on his farm in western France, where he deliberately lives a traditional, non-mechanized farm life.

  • Guadalupe Pardo / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Skiing Robots, a Bichon Frise Wins Best in Show

    The U.S. Toboggan Championships in Maine, scenes from New York Fashion Week, a camel trip on a Siberian steppe, and much more.